Eating my words and reflecting

So I was wrong. Perhaps naïvely, I did not think the Tories would win with a majority this election, and I was almost right. I stand by what I said the other week however, if the election was the day after my post there is no chance the Tories would win a majority, and the outcome of the election would probably be more favourable for all.

The Tories in reflection, definitely had the stronger campaign (although I am not saying Labour’s was not also effective). However to me, having watched all the debates, all the Question Times, I would say that the Tories won largely on the backs of the economy. It is fair to say that Labour did not tackle the fallacy that the economy crashed because of them and this from the get-go gave the Tories the upper hand, even if it is not necessarily wholly true. Similarly, it was the perhaps predictable pander to people’s fears of a British government held at ransom by a radical bunch of left wing socialists from across the border. This was clearly a successful strategy, and something neither the SNP nor Labour effectively combatted. As I write this I am listening to the rolling coverage of the election on the BBC, and, I do not know his name, but a man interestingly noted that every vote for the SNP reduced the likelihood of a Labour win, partly because they would be taking Labour seats, but also it shattered those in England and Wale’s confidence in a post-election Labour government, one which would inevitably have to be propped up by, not a Scottish party, but a nationalist party – it is the nationalist part which fielded the danger. This is partly where I am torn with my support for the SNP – I am wholly in support of more Scottish representation in parliament, and and really taken by Nicola Sturgeon, but it was poor planning in terms of her party tactics, even if I did not realise this myself when the election campaign was happening. Because of this, both Labour and the SNP need to rethink how they will approach these issues in the future, because after all, Sturgeon and the SNP ultimately failed her electorate – elected on the back of a promise to ‘oust’ David Cameron, a promise she has not been able to keep.

That aside, I am still struggling to fathom how the Tories managed to pull this win off to such a great extent. Everyone was in a state of disbelief at those exit polls. My flatmate ran in and told me and I could feel my face drop. Almost every person I spoke to was either voting Labour or Lib Dem, certainly not the Conservatives. When I consider this, I feel maybe it’s the fact I know mostly young people, and their associated naïvety. At the start of my first year in university my economics lecturer said everyone comes into economics left wing and optimistic and leaves right wing and as a pessimist. I find myself wondering if this is true? Is this what has just happened to every university graduate ever? I am regularly told that you grow up and begin to understand the real world when you have to live in it and pay your own bills for a few years, and I guess I can see why.

That being said, I think it is fair to say the the Tories have most of their support from people over say 35, and that is perhaps why this election is especially devastating. As if young people’s voices weren’t being heard enough before – given the governments complacency after they raised tuition fees and all the subsequent marches, rallies, occupations and social unrest. No there is effectively no one for us. Labour’s promises were no way near perfect, but a reduction of tuition fees by a third was obviously never not going to be welcomed – it would have been a start. And now what? The Tories want to prevent people under the age of 25 claiming multiple types of benefits, they want to get more people into apprenticeships (despite the fact from my experience I have found no one actually wants one), and they are apparently ‘open’ to increasing tuition fees even more.

I have a lot of friends who have been heavily involved in the University of London occupation, campaigning for a lot of noble causes. Perhaps shamefully, I regret not getting involved – it was perhaps a combination of laziness on my heart, and my own complacency regarding the issues I so often say I care about. This month the LSE occupation, one of, if not the longest ones running at a London university, was forcefully brought to an end with an injunction letter serviced to them after controversial (yet ultimately right, in my opinion), Russell Brand came to answer a few questions after the occupation screened his new film, the Emperor’s New Clothes (which is well worth a watch). Whether you like Russell Brand as a political persona or not, his film is undeniably enlightening, and it should have been released much sooner, to a much wider audience (although the occupation was packed with people wanting to watch it). It revealed in a concise manner a lot of what gets mixed up in the barrage of different media outlets released each day; effectively how unfair the past 5 years of a mostly Tory government has been on ordinary people, people the government is supposed to be working for. Bias and propaganda aside, when you appreciate the numbers, if does leave you worried about the prospect of what a Conservative-majority government will do to the UK and to its societal pillars, namely the NHS, education and governmental welfare.

The importance of the occupation aside, the right-wing media’s barrage of attacks on Russell Brand, perhaps not unfairly, a self-branded spokesperson for the young (despite his not-that-young age. How can all of these attacks, perhaps on what young people actually consider important – fairness, equality, equal opportunities amongst others – inspire any sort of confidence? With young voters so often overlooked and ignored, having their voices manifested behind Brand’s media vehicle was perhaps their best chance of getting their voices heard, and that’s why I supported Miliband’s decision to meet with Brand in an interview that although did not really reveal much, it at least showed he was willing to engage. Young people (according to conversations I have had as well as my Facebook feed) are everywhere pretty devastated that their votes amounted to virtually nothing in the grand scheme of things.

I think lots of people thought change was coming, and this sudden loss in moment, perhaps a temporary blip in the left or just progressive liberals success over the past 5 years, is certainly disheartening, but they are not down and out. Even before the day of the election there were plans to occupy Downing Street just in case Cameron tried to get into No. 10 when he technically had not won the election. Similarly today, I see a couple of people attending this Facebook event – the Radical Left’s General Assembly, and one of my friends total disbelief culminated in saying ‘We’re fucked, mums going on strike and I’m gonna throw some bricks [sic]’. I think this is the beauty of the young (and old), mobilised left – they never give up, and this is something which should be bolstered given the unexpected result of Thursday’s election. I know that this is something that will increase in momentum over the next five years, and the feeling is hopefully the Tories will mess things up so much that there is no chance of them winning a third term (a term without Cameron).

Overall, I am sad and certainly eating my words, the Tories won (though not necessarily fair and square). I did not expect this result in the slightest, and was actually optimistic that Labour could actually win, but I remain hopeful. I’m optimistic that something better will eventually, however long it takes, come from this election. For all I know, the Tories might do a great job and in 5 years society could be great (a long shot, I know). That being said, I will now try harder than ever to stick to my promise of escaping the UK to Australia for a year, and today has just made that dream all the more important.

(I intended to post on Wednesday, before the election, with some final thoughts, but I could not finish my post in time, therefore I scrapped that and wrote this one instead).

Why the Conservatives won’t win a majority at the General Election

Do the Tories have any policies?

This is a question I have found myself asking on a regular basis every time I see something related to the General Election (GE) in the news or on the internet. It is blindingly obvious that the Tories main tactic this campaign it attack the Labour party with ruthlessness and vigour. I do not dispute that Ed Miliband may or may not be the best candidate for Prime Minister but I would much rather have him than Cameron and the Conservatives.

The pettiness of the Conservative’s GE campaign is baffling, but understandable. The Tories waffle on constantly about their success with the economy, but what else? This struck me on Thursday in particular when watching the regional news. On it there was an interview (and a corresponding news article can be found here) with Chancellor George (Gideon) Osborne, within which he said it was vote for the Tories for a stable and “growing” economy, or vote for Labour, with a poor track record, which would also lead to the SNP storming Westminster (not in aforementioned article).

I’m sorry Mr Osborne but is Scotland no longer part of the United Kingdom? I did not realise Scottish people were not allowed their own representation in the UK’s parliament.

These attacks get weaker and weaker each day with the actual news being the overwhelming support the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon have received in wake of the Leaders’ Debates earlier in April. To me, the Tories constant rebuking of Labour and the SNP only demonstrate the deep fear penetrating Westminster today. The likelihood of a Labour-SNP (and Green?) coalition is fast becoming a realistic prospect. A recent Guardian article caught my attention, fielding the question as to what would happen if the SNP stood candidates outside of Scotland. It revealed how a Survation poll put SNP’s share of parliamentary seats across the UK at 9%, 1% above the Liberal Democrats. This, combined with the Liberal Democrats’ 8% and Greens feeble 4% place left wingers with a sizeable 21% share of the vote, not far off the Tories’ 30. This almost mirrors a similar YouGov poll, putting the SNP at 11% of the vote. However, as this is all hypothetical, the only power SNP will likely have is influencing which party holds power after May 7th.

Because of this the only option is for continued attacks on Labour in the press and by politicians themselves. The Tories, unsurprisingly, are being championed along by the Daily Mail and the Telegraph. In fact, one news story about how ‘70% of the FTSE Top 100‘ say Miliband and Labour would be a ‘catastrophe’ for the economy has been on the front page of the Mail for 5 days – it’s not really breaking news anymore, yet there it stays. Within said article, it is written how Labour has ‘vowed to force companies to offer staff a full time contract if they have been working regular hours for three months’. How is this a bad thing for the country? The same article notes that there are 1.8 million people living on zero-hour contracts. All this reads to me is that big businesses want to keep people down and poor, so they are easy to use to their advantage.

Other self-defeating digs at Labour include Friday’s “scandal”, how – shock horror – Ed Miliband has slept with more than one woman. This point seems to negate common Miliband-slander: that he is a geek, furthering the Tories campaign ineptitude. Ed’s love-life was important enough to make the front page of the Mail in print (perhaps what most people will encounter in their day), but obviously not important enough to make the top of its website. I do not see how these types of posts,about the people involved do not constitute an invasion of their personal privacy, considering they include a lot of intimate detail as well as multiple pictures. These sorts of attacks perhaps demonstrates the weakness in Tory campaigning in another way – because the Mail has nothing to champion or defend on behalf of the Conservatives it has to dig around to find something to report on just to try and keep the Tories on top.

Thursday’s Question Time raised some interesting points about the recent furore about non-domiciled (non-doms) people, a status rich businesspeople can purchase meaning they pay no tax to the UK on incomes made abroad. Labour want to abolish them, meaning the question around the table was how much the abolishment of non-doms would cost the country. Expectedly, many different numbers were thrown around. In my opinion, the likelihood of thousands of Brits registered as non-doms upping sticks and leaving the country is slim. Caroline Lucas righteously noted that if these people who choose to be taxed unfairly at the cost of everyone else want to leave, so be it, they are morally unjust. The Daily Telegraph even noted that the Conservatives would rather target Ed Balls and avoid the issue, something the broadsheet notes most find an ‘archaic injustice’. The same article noted how the public love an underdog, and so in effect, the Tories are shooting themselves in the foot, because this is exactly what Miliband has become. By showing their support for the non-dom status, the Tories only demonstrate that they are a party for the rich, supporting antiquated policies benefitting only themselves. Almost daily the Conservatives push this idea onto the public, exacerbating the effect the daily attacks on Miliband have. David Cameron has high approval ratings with the public, and it will be interesting to see how this changes as the election campaigns push on.

I am not endorsing the Labour party or saying that they will win the election, in fact I am still on the fence as to which way to vote. Nevertheless, what I am sure of is that I will not vote for a party which engages in dirty, smear-campaigning in order to swing the vote, and I’m equally sure many others will not either. The Conservative party has a lot to learn: if you want people to engage in politics and lend their support, prove to them that after 5 years in power you are competent in politics and have policies which are sensible and work towards the greater good rather than dodge issues and resort to scathing and immature personal attacks on someone who is obviously a formidable opponent. It is for this reason, the fact that the Tories have insofar presented nothing solid or appealing to the public, that I feel they will not win a majority at the election on May 7th, and as a disclaimer I suppose I should say that if they do I will eat my hat and move to Australia, never to return.

This article can also be found on my university course’s blog: International Relations Today.

Miliband, Labour and Devolution

Inarguably, the Scottish independence referendum and its aftermath is the biggest news story this week; as a frequenter of both the Guardian and the Daily Mail (the perhaps most read papers on each end of the political spectrum), I can see just how important the referendum is to each paper. 4 days after the vote, both are still reporting on it. What I find interesting about their coverage, however, is the way in which it has been conducted.

Upon clicking on the Guardian homepage, I am immediately greeted by the following article: Cameron faces pressure to seal Scotland deal underneath lie a further 5 articles concerning the headline, including a Guardian view (The Guardian view on David Cameron playing politics with constitutional reform). I especially appreciate the inclusion of a ‘view’ (that is, a admittance of what the newspaper’s official stance on the issue is) and this is something I have noticed a lot over the past few weeks, as at least when you are considering the newspaper’s spin on the topic, you are aware of what they actually think.

In comparison, the Daily Mail news site greets me with a small link to the equivalent article, under a large, unflattering picture of Alex Salmond and his accompanying article, with the following headline: Miliband REJECTS English Votes for English laws and accuses Cameron of playing politics with Westminster ‘vow’ to Scotland. Without even reading the article, I can immediately tell the spin the Mail will take: anti-Labour and anti-Miliband.

I find this use of linguistics particularly interesting, with the Guardian using a straightforward, unbiased headline giving the reader a snapshot of the story, with the Mail in contrast, using a long-winded line laden with lexis and punctuation designed to incur anger.

The Mail refers to Ed Miliband constantly as ‘Mr. Miliband’ with David Cameron referred to in full. The use of ‘Mr’ can certainly be seen as belittling, which to an extent is fair enough as it is no secret that the Mail has right-wing leanings. The article constantly refers to his apparent rejection of ‘English votes for English laws’ which is actually never explicitly rejected by ‘Mr’ Miliband. This Miliband-bashing is nothing new to the Daily Mail, with an almost daily slew of slander coming his way. It is fine to not support or endorse Labour, but it is beggars belief that any paper that publishes an article entitled ‘Ed Miliband is WEIRD’ can be considered good journalism. The capital letters and sarcastic tone of writing undermines significantly Labour’s view on devolution to both Scotland – who should primarily be the focus in the political post-referendum sphere – and England.

It is obvious as to why Miliband avoids directly answering this question (should Scottish MPs have the vote on purely English issues?) as a large part of Labour’s MPs are Scottish based, yet nevertheless, I agree with the principle that Scotland’s devolution should be the government’s priority given that 45% of the Scottish population embraced independence and voted yes. This only lessens my respect for David Cameron, given his conditional and tactical addition of English devolution, alongside Scotland’s. To me, this appears as a result of Cameron’s near failure to maintain the Union, with Glasgow and Dundee voting in favour of independence, which if achieved, would have certainly seen his resignation.

English devolution is important, especially as currently the political focus is on London, but the inability of Scottish MPs to vote on English issues in Westminster would be unfair and also draw up further questions: should non-London MPs get to vote on London-centric issues and vice-versa? Similarly, how much time should be focused on London in Westminster etc. This is an obvious ploy by Cameron to reduce the influence of Labour, the main (barely) left-leaning party in parliament and leave England how the Tories would like it – right wing and conservative.

To me, this only stresses the importance of an awareness of what the papers want you to believe, and in no way am I suggesting that the Guardian is unbiased, yet in this case, I feel it offers a fairer and more comprehensive analysis of the current situation. The devolution question raises countless others, and it will be interesting to see how it develops over the coming days and weeks especially considering Cameron’s reneging on pre-referendum promises which is doing nothing to help the reputation of parliament, politicians or the Conservatives.

(Note: I appreciate the Daily Mail cannot really be considered a broad-sheet or even a well-respected publication, yet I chose it as so many people read it everyday.)